Three simple tips that will show you how to work from home when quarantined with children.
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THE BEST WAY TO WORK FROM HOME WHEN YOU HAVE YOUNG KIDS IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY ARE PRE-OCCUPIED WITH FUN THINGS THEY CAN DO ON THEIR OWN THAT DON’T TAKE TOO MUCH TIME TO SET UP OR PUT AWAY BEFORE YOU START WORKING.
Is your country already on lockdown and the entire family has been told to stay home but you still obviously need to work? Are you watching the news and wondering how to work from home when quarantined with children?
Except now you’ve got to contend, not just with the job at hand (which you’ve never done remotely before) but also with the chaos that follows your inquisitive little child?
This post contains the 3 rules I live by when working from home.
They’ve served me well in those times when I had no other childcare to rely on because my husband was working outside the house.
I’m sure they’ll serve you well too.
Side Note: This post is for parents with young children. Working from home with kids under quarantine is a lot easier when your children are older and have their own groups of friends they can phone or chat with, can read on their own and can maybe even make their own food.
How to work from home with children #1: Work with their schedule.
I once tried to just impose a schedule top-down and make everyone follow it.
It didn’t work because young kids don’t generally do well with the kind of marathon session I needed to focus on my tasks.
So, I highly encourage you to work with and around your children’s schedule instead.
If you’ve got a baby who naps for long stretches, then enjoy the time they’re awake and work when they’re sleeping.
Same with a toddler.
But what about if they don’t nap? What if they can’t nap because if they do, they don’t sleep until after midnight (like mine)?
In that case, you’re either just going to have work before they wake up in the morning, after they go to bed at night or whilst they’re awake but playing independently.
Personally, I prefer going to bed once they fall asleep at about 8.30 AM and waking up at 4.00 AM. This gives me about 3 hours of uninterrupted time to devote to writing.
This time is priceless to me because I can’t write when my child is underfoot. I need quiet, focus and concentration.
If the thought of having to wake up that early makes you cringe or you’re a night owl and can’t function that early in the morning, then wait until the kids are sleeping and then work for a few hours.
Just make sure that you sleep for enough hours so you don’t die the next day when your children are awake and bouncing with energy.
And if you need to work whilst they’re awake? Check out the next two tips.
If you need help managing the time you have so you can meet all your responsibilities or making the most of your time whilst you’re on quarantine, you might want to go through our other resources below.
How To Have More Free Time Series – Learn how to time track, time block and use time management techniques like the Pomodoro.
This is a series of posts that will teach you, step-by-step, how you can create more free time for all the important things in your life. A must-read for super busy people who can’t seem to do everything they want to do.
How To Be Productive During A Quarantine – A list of concrete ideas you can use to be productive during quarantine and make the most of your time at home.
Best Skills To Learn During Quarantine – The 4 skills I highly recommend anybody learn. If you’re looking for change or self-improvement whilst under quarantine, this is what you need.
How to work from home with children #2: Set up a safe play area for them.
So, this may not work if you have a high needs baby who cries when you put her down (guess, how I know), but if your child is a toddler and can play on her own, then all you really need to do is set up a safe play area for them and let em rip.
Side Note: For said high needs baby, babywearing saved my life and it could be a lifesaver for you too. As long as you don’t have to do something too physical and you don’t have to cook, you can wear that baby and get on with your work.
A few ideas that worked with my son:
Bath time or Water Station
Fill the tub with just enough warm water and let them splash around or play with their toys. Add bubbles for more fun and giggles.
Obviously, this only works if your child is older and can be trusted not to stand up or otherwise endanger himself whilst bathing.
Also, you need to be close enough that you can hear or see your child – just in case.
This works for us because my son is 3, knows how to pull the plug and drain the bath when he’s done and, most importantly, we live in a tiny flat where I can hear every single noise that comes from the bathroom.
An alternative to bath time is setting up an indoor water station. Actually, you can also do this in your garden but we haven’t got one so everything is indoors.
We love this:
Play sand, Kinetic Sand and Play Doh
We have an IKEA Flisat table, which contains two storage compartments and which we use for arts and crafts.
One is filled with play sand and the other with childsafe scissors, craft paper, glitter, glue etc.
When I need some time during the day, I put a waterproof table cover (a tarp works well too), place the IKEA table over it and let my son play to his heart’s content.
This works for my family for a good 30 minutes or so, which is enough if you’re efficient with your time.
See resources in the previous section for tips on how to do that. I especially recommend the Pomodoro technique.
Cardboard box, plastic pipes and toilet roll
We buy them expensive toys but really, these four things will do the trick for most young kids.
I bulk buy Oatly barista from Amazon because it always runs out in our local store. Each time, I’ll keep one of the boxes and each time, my son will take it to his playroom and spend 30 minutes (at least) by himself, making all sorts of things with that single box.
One time he used the box to prop up a roll of tissue and made it into a slide for his tiny toys. As well as a tunnel. A castle. A fort.
They became whatever he wanted them to be.
But guess what his all-time favourite toy is?
A clean plastic pipe that his dad gave him. You know those white pipes under your bathroom sink?
Yeah, his dad gave him a clean never-been-used before pipe when he was one. It was an instant hit.
Over the years, it had become a phone, a tunnel, a slide, a bendy bridge, a chimney, a megaphone, a telescope etc.
So, use these everyday things and let them use their imagination.
If all else fails, go with tip #3.
For other things you can do at home so you can work when your children are on quarantine, check out the resources below:
How To Get A Kid To Shut Up When You Need Silence Now – A list of highly recommended activities your kids can do when you really need quiet and focus.
Financial Books, Apps And Games For Young Kids – If you want your children to get a headstart on finance, this is the post for you. Get some work done whilst your child learns the basics of money management.
The Five Minute Mum – Knock yourself out with these easy to set up (5 minutes) and easy to tidy games (another 5 minutes) that feature common household items. A real godsend for busy parents.
How to work from home with children #3: Let them watch educational shows.
Me (pre-kids): Once I have children, they will not be introduced to screens until after their brains have been fully developed at the age of 3 so I don’t screw them up.
Me (3 years into motherhood): Oh. My. God! I’m just trying to get this piece done in time for my deadline. Do you want to watch Team Umizoomi? Yes? No? Undecided? Oh, I’m just gonna put it on. Now, you sit there whilst I finish this up.
You have to know where I’m going with this, right?
If you have tight deadlines and no one else to help you look after the kids, then use screens.
If it makes you feel better, the human brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25 anyway so waiting until it’s fully developed was definitely erroneous wishful thinking on my part.
Let them loosen up a little and watch an educational show.
Believe it or not, there are so many shows now that can teach your child amazing things, sometimes things they don’t even really learn in school (like emotional management).
A few of our favourites are available on Amazon Prime (because we live and breathe Amazon in this house): Team Umizoomi teaches math, Octonauts talk about animals and Daniel Tiger focuses on social skills and emotional management (more on the resource below).
The Best Educational Shows For Children – A list of the best educational TV shows for kids that, if you’re going that way anyway, you absolutely need to let them watch. 🙂
Final thoughts on how to work from home when quarantined with children
It’s a scary time right now and we don’t really know what will happen.
This is a time to really enjoy family and I recommend this first and foremost.
Be present with your children.
Play with them.
Enjoy the fact that you have this chance to spend more time with them.
From personal experience, I can tell you that the more one-on-one time you spend with your kids, the more likely they are to leave you alone when you need to work.
Their cup of love is filled everytime you focus on and play with them so they won’t need you as much.
Of course, if you need to work from home then you need to be able to do so even when you’re quarantined with children.
I recommend creating a work schedule that works around your children’s schedule (rather than trying to force them to adhere to yours), set up a safe play area for them and let them indulge in some independent play and, if push comes to shove, let them watch something educational on the telly.
If you don’t want screens but have no other alternatives but to let your children indulge in screentime whilst you wrestle with parental guilt, remember that these are unique times that require creative solutions.
For more evidence-based parenting facts, check out the resources below.
Evidence-Based Parenting Books – An ever-expanding list of the top evidence-based parenting books that will show you what the current research is and how this informs the way we (should) parent.